NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- These days, it's not enough for an online retailer to sell you merchandise -- now it feels the need to gather intelligence on you while you're there and follow you out of the virtual store to beg you to come back. Online retailers are among the many Web sites that gather their users' personal data and track browsing habits for their own purposes, and most also make use of third-party tracking software that uses your browsing habits on one site to create targeted ads on another. When it comes to retail, that often takes the form of "retargeting" -- a tracker on a retail site will set a cookie when you leave and suddenly ads for it will appear everywhere you go. (In some cases the ads will be product-specific -- do a search for flash drives on the site, and suddenly you'll see ads all over the Web encouraging you to go back and buy some flash drives.)
A few e-commerce sites distinguish themselves as more respectful of your privacy.